Namık Kemal Parlak
Food security is a top priority and a long-standing challenge facing the international community. The COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events, economic recession and the Russia-Ukraine conflict led to sharp rises in prices, further exacerbating the imbalance between supply and demand. The war has led to a rapid global breakdown in food security due to the importance of both countries in supplying food stocks, affecting supply chains and prices, with consequences hitting the most vulnerable countries and population groups.
As fears of a global food crisis are growing due to the shock of the war in Ukraine, more countries are resorting to protectionism to safeguard their own supplies. The economic instability and food insecurity triggered by the invasion has so far pushed 22 nations to impose 41 restrictions or prohibitions on exports of wheat, maize, and other staples.
Global food markets are extremely concentrated, both in terms of supplies and reserves. Seven countries make up 86% of wheat exports, while three countries hold 68% of the world’s wheat reserves. The figures are similar when it comes to coarse grains, corn, rice and soybean. Russia and Ukraine supplied about 30% of the world's wheat and barley before the war. Thirty-six countries, including some of the world's most vulnerable and impoverished, relied on them for more than half of their wheat imports.
Food trade protectionism will not only influence the global grain supply structure but also aggravate market anxiety, further fueling rising grain prices. It is difficult for countries to be immune to a world food crisis. Only by joining hands and working together can the damage be minimized.
Countries should cooperate to maintain the global food trade order. Food trade protectionism will only create a prisoner's dilemma that will leave no parties unscathed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Food Programme and International Fund for Agricultural Development should take concrete measures to make the global food system more resilient. They should give full play to their advantages in their respective fields to help developing countries enhance their food security. They should also engage with developed countries to explore a food security governance model that promotes increased food production, provides food aid and popularizes agricultural technologies.
At the same time, countries should do more to reduce food loss and food waste. According to the FAO, 14 percent of the world's grain output is lost from harvest to retail, and another 17 percent is wasted in its retail, catering and consumption. This is equivalent to the annual food rations of 1.26 billion people.
The storage of grain is important from a food security perspective as reserves provide a supply cushion in emergencies and influence food market dynamics by impacting key parameters such as prices. Miller Magazine draws attention to this critical issue in its June issue.
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